Carey Mulligan at the 2010 Orange British Academy Awards

Can any of Oscars' young designers create a dress as impressive as the one Carey Mulligan wore to the BAFTA's on Sunday night? 

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

Academy bringing its own 'Project Runway' to the Oscars

Public gets to vote on gown worn during the show

Proving the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences can drag themselves into the 21st Century, the Oscar org announced a new contest today that allows the public to vote on an aspect of this year's 82nd Academy Awards.  No, voters won't get to determine any winners -- perish that thought -- but they will get to decide which gown is worn by one of the many Awards escorts during the show.

Beginning today at 5 PM PT, the public can vote on in the "Oscar Designer Challenge 2010."  Designers from around Los Angeles, er, the country are participating including:  Fernanda Carneiro (Los Angeles), Elda De La Rosa, (Chicago), Ivy Higa (New York), Phong Hong (Los Angeles), Rania Salibi (Phoenix), Oday Shakar (Los Angeles), Ari Sheuhmelian (Los Angeles), Oliver Tolentino (Los Angeles) and Kelsy Zimba (New York). (Who knew all the good designers were in LA? Certainly not the industry in NY...).  Voting ends on March 1 with the winner being announced during the live ABC arrivals show before the big show.

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Maria Bello talks about her new drama "The Yellow Handkerchief."

Maria Bello talks about her new drama "The Yellow Handkerchief."

Maria Bello shows her loyalty to 'Yellow Handkerchief' and Haiti

Acclaimed actress talks about her two trips to help those in need

Hollywood is full of actors who take their commitments to supporting the films the appear in seriously, but Maria Bello may just define industry loyalty among her peers.  Whether it was promoting the highly controversial "Downloading Nancy" or working tirelessly to get the word out on "The Cooler," Bello has rarely missed a chance to help a project she was involved with get some recognition.  That may make you conclude she's an opportunist, but in fact, she is always more focused on the work at hand than pushing her own career.  So, it came as no surprise that when the drama "The Yellow Handkerchief," which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008 (there have been two complete iterations of the festival since) finally found an avenue to theaters, Bello was on hand to help give it some attention.

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Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart at the premiere of "New Moon."

Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart will be reuniting at the 82nd Academy Awards.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

'Twilight' goes to the Oscars as Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart confirmed to present

Plus: Miley Cyrus and Zac Efron will be on hand for more tween love

As revealed here way back in early January, Taylor Lautner will be presenting at this year's 82nd Academy Awards.  However, not only will the "Twilight" star be appearing at the Kodak Thater, but his co-star Kristen Stewart will be on hand as well.  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that Lautner, Stewart, Zac Efron and Miley Cyrus would all be part of the March 7 event today

This isn't surprising as co-produce Adam Shankman has made it a priority to get younger "stars" to appear on the show and "New Moon" was one of 2009's biggest blockbusters.   Last year,  Robert Pattinson made his Oscar debut as a presenter. It is unclear if he will return for a second go around.  Lautner and Stewart will be joining Anna Kendrick, who is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Up in the Air" in representing the popular "Twilight" franchise.

Both Cyrus and Efron, however, have previously appeared on the Academy Awards.  Efron participated in a musical number with last year's host Hugh Jackman and Beyonce a year ago.  Cyrus was also on hand for the 81st edition of the show.

While Lautner only has "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" in the can, the Oscar appearance is a huge opportunity for Stewart to promote her upcoming drama "The Runaways" opening only a few weeks after the show on March 19.  Efron is an old friend of Shankman's having appeared in the director's musical "Hairspray" and in "17 Again" which he produced.  Cyrus was overlooked in the Best Original Song category for her contributions to "Hannah Montana: The Movie," but she also has her first non-"Hannah" role on deck in "The Last Song" on March 31.

While last year's show tried to keep as many of the presenters secret, it's unclear if this year's edition will announce all of the attendees beforehand.  Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin will co-host Hollywood's biggest night on Sunday, March 7.  The Academy Awards will be broadcast live on ABC beginning at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT.  As always, look for continuing coverage on HitFix and Awards Campaign.

 For the latest in breaking entertainment news and commentary follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.

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Eli Roth and Brad Pitt in Best Picture nominee "Inglourious Basterds."

If Brad Pitt had actively campaigned for "Inglourious Basterds" could it have helped the film get in the race with "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker"?  It wouldn't have helped "Babel" or "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

Credit: Weinstein Company

Are Meryl Streep and 'Inglourious Basterds' Oscar's comeback kids?

Both contenders are spending, but does it matter?

As the long awards season enters the final stretch over the next nine days, pundits from coast to coast have been wondering what surprises, if any, are in store on Oscar night. 

Even with time left on the clock for Academy members to change their collective minds, it's almost a given that Mo'Nique, Christoph Waltz, "Avatar's" visual effects team and "Up" will win its respective awards (at least animated feature for the Pixar blockbuster).  And at this point it would be a genuine shocker if Jeff Bridges didn't take home Best Actor after dominating the season so far.  Where there is true drama is in the Best Picture race, and quite surprisingly, Best Actress (well, that's really a "maybe" on the latter).

Everybody knows a true down to the wire fight has been waged for the hearts of Oscar voters by "The Hurt Locker" and "Avatar."  But looking to stir up something to write about, some media types have been trying to convince the Academy, other members of the press and the general public that Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" is in the race too.  And while this pundit was a huge fan of the late summer hit, it's a bit too little, too late.

To its credit, "Basterds" did win the Best Ensemble award at this year's SAG Awards -- quick reminder, actors make up the largest voting bloc in the Academy -- but the thriller has lost every other possible Best Picture award to either "Locker" or "Avatar."  Yet, ever since nominations were announced The Weinstein Company has been pushing the film strongly spending online, throughout the pages of the LA Times (buying full page ads studios don't even purchase for traditional movie campaigns anymore) and with impactful electronic billboards all over Los Angeles (which on a side note are surprisingly affordable).  The problem is, they aren't the only ones. 

Fox has been strategic about hitting Academy members on specific trade sites and "Locker" has been in every other digital billboard rotation that "Basterds" isn't in. In fact, in the major voter cross sections of Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica they are probably in more locations than "Basterds" (at least from this eye).  So, while its admirable the Weinsteins are supporting their one true contender the problem is that they should have been waging this level of a campaign way back in November.  Unfortunately, the company still believed "Nine" (which just barely passed "The Producers" and avoided the moniker of the lowest grossing musical in the modern era) was a true Oscar frontrunner.  Harvey somehow just didn't realize how strong the fervor around "Basterds" would be.  The film dominated almost as many top ten lists as "Locker" and with the right push should have toped "Avatar" for the Best Picture - Drama at the Golden Globes which would have been a significant win. But these aren't things you can turnaround in a week, they have to build over time.  That's why Oscar consultants start planning campaigns in August and September, not the beginning of February.

Now, is it inconceivable that "Basterds" upsets both "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker" for Best Picture?  Sure, and Tom Cruise might make a movie another "Mission Impossible" movie again with Paramount...wait, bad example. 

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Colin Firth and Kate Winslet backstage at the 2010 Orange British Academy Awards.

This year's Best Actor winner Colin Firth and last year's Best Actress winner Kate Winslet backstage at the 2010 Orange British Academy Awards.

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

'Hurt Locker' dominates 'Avatar' at the Orange British Academy Awards

Colin Firth, Carey Mulligan, Kristen Stewart win first BAFTAs

The 2010 Orange British Academy Awards have often been a potential preview of the Academy Awards and that didn't change with tonight's ceremony in London.  While the Brits certainly went with hometown favorites Colin Firth and Carey Mulligan in the lead acting categories, it was regular award season contenders "Avatar," "Up" and "Up in the Air" that won their Oscar equivalents.  Still, the biggest news of the night was "The Hurt Locker" which dominated with six wins including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.  Will the Kathryn Bigelow thriller duplicate its season-long success on March 7? It's seeming increasingly likely.

Here's a complete list of this year's BAFTA winners as well as some quick reactions.

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Kyle Glass and Jack Black are Tenacious D

Kyle Glass and Jack Black are masters of rock: Tenacious D.

Credit: AP Photo

Tenacious D, Will Ferrell and Demetri Martin rock for charity

Event also features John C. Reilly and Rod Riggle

Will Ferrell took time out from being with his newborn son Saturday night to host "Make It Better," a charity benefit for Pete Carroll's A Better LA organization.  Taking place in front of approximately 7,000 fans at the Nokia Theater at LA Live in downtown Los Angeles, the two hour plus event featured skits by Ferrell and good buddy John C. Reilly as well as stand up performances by Aubrey Plaza, "The Daily Show's" Rob Riggle, Nick Knoll (filling for a tied up Nick Swardson), Adult Swim's Tim and Eric, Demetri Martin and, to close out the night, Tenacious D (aka Jack Black and Kyle Glass).

Ferrell started out the night by performing a hilarious old school rap song (his words) with Reilly titled "Boats n' Ho's."  There isn't much that can be repeated from the song in a family friendly outlet such as this, but needless to say, it gives The Lonely Island's "I'm On A Boat" a run for its money.  He and Reilly also had a very funny bit where they appeared in costumes as aliens from "Avatar" and were convinced the audience thought it looked "real" because they were wearing 3-D glasses.  As for the stand ups, it was pretty much a mixed bag.

Why Plaza, who first gained national attention in "Funny People" and appears on NBC "Parks and Recreation," continues to have a standup career is inexplicable.  Her low key style was certainly a mismatch for the huge audience in front of her this night, but her material is neither that strong or, frankly, interesting.  Moreover, my host for the night informed me she pretty much performed the exact same set at the Montreal Comedy Festival last summer. She might just want to stick to her TV gig.

Riggle worked the room pretty well with the sort of set that would kill on the college circuit. Lots of fart, sex and Guido jokes.  It wasn't necessarily unfunny, but certainly wasn't memorable. 

Much stronger was Nick Kroll best known for his work on FX's "The League."  A very talented guy, he knocked the crowd out with a pretty smart bit on the difference between cats and dogs.  Unfortunately, he was followed by the biggest misfire of the night: Tim and Eric.

Inviting the duo who are closer to performance art than stand up act to the benefit was a gutsy move by Ferrell,  Unfortunately, it was a huge mistake.  Appearing in body stockings with large, fake external appendages where their privates should be (you can get the picture), the Adult Swim partners sang a long song about....diarrhea (no joke). In fact, their entire bit was somehow tied to diarrhea as they showed two mock commercials with "30 Rock's" Jack McBrayer and Corbin Bernsen thematically tied to it.  To say they bombed was an understatement.  A majority of the audience were Will Ferrell fans, a good third were hardcore Tenacious D fans and the rest were corporate contributors to the charity.  This was not the sort of crowd that was going to embrace this sort of humor.

Luckily, Martin got the night back on track.  It's easy to forget how big Martin's gotten since his Comedy Central show took off, because he still comes across as that really smart, but shy guy you know who is too smart for his own good (even when he's making a funny)..  While Martin's observational humor can be hit or miss, it's when he plays guitar and harmonica live that it really takes off.  In fact, the number of jokes he went through while playing a pretty tune was very, very impressive.  The man is a talent, it's just a question if he'll move beyond the short, comparative jokes as his career continues.  Especially since he's pretty close to mastering it now.

Closing out the show were the one and only Tenacious D.  The rock comedy duo have finally reunited and are booking dates all through the spring and summer.  And if you have a chance to see them live, don't miss out.  Black is an underrated singer and Glass is an underrated guitar player so combined they put on a two-man show that's hard not to fall for. They sang favorites such as "The Road," "F*** Her Gently" and "History" as well as a tease of a new song entitled "The Phoenix" (or something close to it) which mocked how their movie "Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny" bombed at the box office.  In person, however, Black and Glass have great comedic timing and their banter inbetween songs was almost funnier than all the stand ups before them.  After watching, you're also left with the question:  When is someone in Hollywood finally going to cast Jack Black in a musical?  Any musical?  The dude can flat out sing.  And as for the D, this is one writer who can't want to see them live again (how about the Hollywood Bowl guys?).

The show ended with Ferrell, wearing a snuggie (really) turning around to show the audience...his bare ass.  A memorable way to end a memorable night for a very good cause.

Now, if only the Nokia Theater wasn't such a cheap dump.  Well, that's for another post...

If you want to find out more about A Better LA, click here.

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George Clooney in "Up in the Air"

George Clooney in WGA Award winner "Up in the Air."

Credit: Paramount Pictures

'Up in the Air' and 'Hurt Locker' take key WGA Writing Award honors

'30 Rock,' 'Mad Men' and 'Modern Family' among TV winners

The nominees for the Writer's Guild's 2010 WGA Awards were missing a few films that landed the equivilant honor from the Academy Awards, but that didn't stop the Oscar frontrunners from making some noise.  Both "Up in the Air" and "The Hurt Locker" went home with with the respective WGA Adapted and Original Screenplay awards on Saturday night.  It's still hard to imagine either film losing the biggest writing awards on March 7th, but "In the Loop" and "Inglourious Basterds" could pull upsets.

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Johnny Depp at the Alice in Wonderland Fan Event

Johnny Depp at the "Alice in Wonderland Fan Event" Friday night in Hollywood.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Johnny Depp says Rob Marshall's new 'take' on 'Pirates 4' convinced him to return as Captain Jack

The Mad Hatter also discusses his seventh collaboration with Tim Burton in 'Alice in Wonderland'

He may be the Mad Hatter in the upcoming blockbuster "Alice in Wonderland," but this summer Johnny Depp will be heading to Hawaii to shoot the fourth installment in the popular "Pirates" franchise, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."  For awhile, Depp openly questioned whether a fourth installment would ever occur.

After Depp's longtime friend Dick Cook was essentially fired as Chairman of Walt Disney Studios early last Fall, the superstar raised some doubt over whether he still wanted to return for another go around as Captain Jack Sparrow.  Depp revealed today that it was actually the dismissed Cook who helped convince him to still do the picture.

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2009 Independent Spirit Award winner James Franco

James Franco won a 2009 Independent Spirit Award for his supporting role in "Milk."

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Independent Spirit Awards get ready for their 25th Anniversary spotlight

Film Independent head Dawn Hudson talks about the show's big changes

If the Academy Awards didn't have the "Avatar" vs. "The Hurt Locker" showdown in the mix and the novelty of 10 Best Picture nominees, the big story this year might be about the Oscar's indie cousin: The Independent Spirit Awards.  The annual gathering known for its irreverent speeches and let it lose attitude is celebrating its 25th anniversary honoring the best in indie film and decided to make a big move in the process.

Traditionally, the Spirits have been held early Saturday afternoon the day before the Oscars in a huge tent near the Santa Monica Pier.  However, this year, the Spirits are moving to downtown Los Angeles and into a home at the LA Live complex adjacent to the Nokia Theater and Staples Center.  Moreover, the show will now take place in prime time on the east coast the Friday night before Oscar.  Will that mean bigger ratings and exposure?  It's unclear, but the enthusiasm for the changes was apparent when I spoke to Dawn Hudson, Executive Director of Film Independent, the non profit organization that runs both the Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival among other endeavors.

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Kristen Stewart talks Yellow Handkerchief and Breaking Dawn

Kristen Stewart talks Yellow Handkerchief and Breaking Dawn

Credit: HitFix

Kristen Stewart thinks 'Breaking Dawn' would be a 'trip' in 3-D

Also discuss the long journey to get 'The Yellow Handkerchief' in theaters

It's hard to believe, but it's taken over two years for the drama "The Yellow Handkerchief" to theaters.  Debuting at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008, the film features great performances by William Hurt, Maria Bello, Kristen Stewart and Eddie Radmayne.  Unfortunately, even after "Twilight" and Stewart's starpower exploded a year ago it took small distributor Samuel Goldwyn to come on board and bring legendary producer Arthur Cohn's passion project to the screen. 

Directed by Udayan Prasad, "Handkerchief" finds Hurt playing an ex-conflict fresh out of prison who is at a crossroads at his life. As he decides whether to pick up with his old girlfriend (Bello), he meets two teenage drifters (Stewart, Redmayne).  Are they three four souls who are a new family or just wanderers drifting in the night?

Talking to Stewart and Redmayne, I made the point that neither actor had to publicize "Handkerchief."  Both were probably paid close to scale and the film will hardly be a global blockbuster.  However, both actors displayed their passion for the film -- even if it's been years since they've seen it. 

As for Stewart, "Twilight" fans are no doubt salivating for her return in "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" this June, but are also intrigued about the constant rumors surrounding "Breaking Dawn."  Reports have claimed Stephanie Meyer's fourth novel might be divided into two movies and both "Dawn's" could be shot in 3-D.  I specifically asked Stewart about the latter as some "Twilight" fans are pretty passionate about the topic.  The "Runaways" actress definitely has an opinion on the subject

You can watch the interview with Stewart and her co-star Redmayne embedded in this story or click here for a larger version.

"The Yellow Handkerchief" opens in limited release Feb. 26.
"The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" opens nationwide on June 30.

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